- Start with 50 points.
- Add 1 point for each out recorded, (3 points per inning).
- Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th.
- Add 1 point for each strikeout.
- Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed.
- Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed.
- Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed.
- Subtract 1 point for each walk.
Anyway, game score is a neat little tool because it rewards starters who go deep into a game while striking out a lot of enemy batters and preventing opposing baserunners and runs. That's pretty common sensical-like. For more basic trivia about game scores, check out the Game Score Wikipedia article.
The reason I bring up game scores ultimately has to do with abysmal pitching. I'm sure most baseball fans can think of an awful outing by a starting pitcher who managed to come away with a win. As luck would have it, Matt Harrison of the Rangers had such a win earlier this month. On August 10, he gave up six runs on ten hits and two walks in five innings and was the winning pitcher in a 15-7 slugfest. While other pitchers have given up more runs in a start and come away with a win (Russ Ortiz, for one), you get the idea.
I want to look at the lowest game scores by a winning starting pitcher since 1956. Matt Harrison's win two weeks ago came with a game score of 21 and Russ Ortiz's bad day I linked to had a game score of 22 thanks to his seven strikeouts. There have been even lower game scores coupled with pitching wins. They were achieved, obviously, by pitchers who didn't strike out many batters while scattering hits and walks around the yard en route to a bunch of runs scored against them. Below is the list of the twenty-seven games since 1956 in which a starting pitcher with a game score of 19 or lower was the winning pitcher. The dates listed link to the box score of the game.
|Ike Delock||6/14/1956||BOS||CLE||10-9||19||5.1 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 5 BB, 2 K|
|Rick Waits||8/4/1979||CLE||TEX||12-8||19||5.1 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 2 K|
|Rick Aguilera||8/8/1985||NYM||MON||14-7||19||5.0 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 0 K|
|Jimmy Jones||7/30/1987||SDP||CIN||12-8||19||5.0 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 1 K|
|Mike Mussina||7/1/1994||BAL||CAL||14-7||19||5.0 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 1 K|
|Bobby Witt||4/25/1998||TEX||KCR||11-8||19||5.0 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 0 K|
|Brian Bohanon||6/15/1999||COL||SFG||15-6||19||5.0 IP, 12 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 4 K|
|Chris Peters||8/30/1999||PIT||COL||11-8||19||5.0 IP, 12 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 0 K|
|Ken Holtzman||5/28/1969||CHC||SFG||9-8||18||5.0 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 5 BB, 4 K|
|Charles Hudson||6/11/1985||PHI||NYM||26-7||18||5.0 IP, 13 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 3 K|
|Steve Woodard||5/11/2000||MIL||CHC||14-8||18||5.0 IP, 13 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 4 K|
|Jake Westbrook||7/31/2005||CLE||SEA||9-7||18||5.2 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 2 K|
|Bob Rush||5/12/1956||CHC||STL||14-10||17||5.1 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 1 K|
|Don Sutton||5/5/1976||LAD||CHC||14-12||17||5.2 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 4 K|
|Todd Stottlemyre||4/23/1992||TOR||CLE||13-8||17||6.2 IP, 13 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 3 K|
|Sid Roberson||6/30/1995||MIL||NYY||12-6||17||5.0 IP, 12 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 2 K|
|Shawn Estes||7/6/1999||SFG||SDP||10-9||17||5.0 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3 K|
|Bill Campbell||8/3/1975||MIN||CHW||12-9||16||5.2 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 6 BB, 3 K|
|Kirk Rueter||6/12/1999||SFG||SEA||15-11||16||5.1 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 2 K|
|Casey Daigle||5/10/2004||ARI||NYM||12-8||15||5.0 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 1 K|
|Jaret Wright||4/18/2005||NYY||TBD||19-8||15||5.1 IP, 11 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 4 K|
|Jae Seo||5/24/2007||TBD||SEA||13-12||15||5.0 IP, 13 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 K|
|Don Sutton||5/31/1979||LAD||SFG||12-10||14||6.2 IP, 13 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 5 K|
|Jon Garland||4/13/2006||CHW||DET||13-9||14||5.0 IP, 13 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 2 K|
|Andy Pettitte||9/29/2007||NYY||BAL||11-10||14||5.0 IP, 8 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 0 K|
|Dan Haren||8/21/2006||OAK||TOR||12-10||13||5.2 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, 4 K|
|Woody Williams||4/7/2001||SDP||COL||14-10||12||5.0 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 0 BB, 3 K|
As you can see, the difference between Woody Williams' start and many of the ones above it is negligible - a hit, walk, or strikeout here or there accounts for the difference in game scores and if you've given up nine runs in five innings, who really cares how you did it, right? The same can be said for most of the games listed here. That said, there's something special about having a unique combination of innings, hits, walks, strikeouts, and runs allowed among all winning pitchers in the past 52 years. I'm sure Woody Williams was glad to forget April 7, 2001, but he still got the win and (retroactively) a very dubious distinction for his trouble.
I also found the number of good pitchers on the list interesting. Hall of Famer Don Sutton shows up twice while more recent 200-game winners Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte also appear. It might not mean as much anymore, but besides those three, nine more pitchers on the list were named to the All-Star team at least once. I guess it just goes to show you that any pitcher can have a bad day...and any pitcher can have his team's bats let him off the hook.